Webrangers!! Raising Online Super Heroes In Nigeria

Since I was a child I’ve always loved taking care of my younger ones. I come from a family of five girls and a younger brother. Having no older male sibling gave people the impression that they can intimidate my siblings and I any how they see fit. That impression gave me the courage and push to always stand up and defend my siblings against bullies both at school and in our neighborhood.  Although very quiet, I managed to use my quietness to really strategize on the best ways to protect my younger ones without being violent. At school I would hear whispers like “don’t look for her trouble or that of any of her siblings, only God knows what she is thinking”’. That made my classmates call me some unpleasant names that I can’t even write down.

My early experience  of having to protect myself and my siblings led me  down the path of always looking out for children both informally and formally. As a pharmacologist by degree, I adopted a new skill which enabled me carry out my volunteering work in different child care centers. I also worked as an Au pair not just for the money but because of my love for children and my desire to keep them safe.

Few years ago I got harassed and bullied online by one of my facebook friend called Victor as i still recall. He sent a friend request which i accepted and months later he started sending annoying messages and calling me all kinds of disturbing and horrible names. Due to the fact that am sometimes on/off on facebook, one of my cousins called me to inform me that someone is posting some nasty comments on my pictures and Facebook page. As at that time, i knew nothing about internet safety and cyber-bullies and that made the experience so devastating for me. He threatened to trace my whereabout and hunt me down but unfortunately for him i wasn’t in Nigeria at the time of the incident. The mistake I made was responding back to the bully, trying to defend myself which made the situation even worse for me. I managed to delete all the nasty comments and eventually blocked the bully. However i now know better that whatever goes online stays online no matter the years to come. Because I hardly responded to Victor’s constant annoying messages, i came to conclusion that he decided to be mean and bully me in order to get my attention. I recovered eventually but took a longer time for me to recover  psychologically.

After my National Youth Service Corp (NYSC), I got a job and was excited when I was told that part of my job responsibility is to engage teenagers on Internet safety measures. For a little over a year now, I’ve been part of the team training students on how to stay safe on the internet while still enjoying all the benefits the internet offers and also building them into becoming Webrangers;online super heroes safeguarding the web to help make it a safe space for all users. They do this by developing positive messaging campaigns by themselves on cyber-bullying. This year, we kicked off our first wave of Webrangers training on the 13th of May and trained about 1000 Lagos State Model College Students on Internet Safety and the need to become a Webranger.

It was indeed an interactive, informative and educative learning experience not just for the students but also for their principals and teachers present. They got to understand that the best way to respond to cyberbullying is by Ignoring, Reporting and Blocking (IRB) the person.

The students watched various short films centred around online safety and cyberbullying. They also watched  Fatimah’s documentary; our 2016 Webranger who narrated her journey as the first Nigerian Webranger. The students opened up on their personal cyber-bullying experiences while committing to become Webrangers to protect themselves and others online.

There were lots of fun activities. The students were given the opportunity to showcase their creative and artist positive messaging campaigns on cyber-bullying. Each group boldly presented their work and took pictures with their designs. One group initiated a slogan “No bullying” More buddies”.  The rest of the students were excited as they joined the bandwagon in staying no to cyber-bullying.

There’s nothing wrong with the internet neither is the Internet bad  but the problem is when people use the Internet to do bad and terrifying things. So it’s everyone’s responsible to help make the internet a safer space for all users. Yes, let’s Say No To Cyber-bullying.

This article was first published on medium and was written by Chidimma Udeh

Chidimma Udeh is a Safer Internet Fellow with the Nigeria Integrity Film Awards (Homevida) and is passionate about safeguarding kids and teens online.

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